Student Experiences: Byron Lab

U N E student Jessica Vorse

Jessica Vorse, M.S. ’22

During my time as a Marine Science master’s student at UNE, I’ve been studying the food safety of edible kelp, running both storage temperature trials and drying method trials. For the storage temperature trials, I take kelp, inoculate it with a known concentration of one of six food pathogens, then store the kelp at various temperatures. I sample the kelp during its storage to see how the pathogen load is responding.

I am using the same experimental design to compare air- and freeze-drying. Kelp is currently unregulated as a food product by the FDA, so this research will help ensure that when regulation is made, it is based on science tailored specifically to local kelp species. 

A lot of our research projects through this UNE’s master’s program are interdisciplinary. Many of us get to experience both field skills and lab skills. The lab skills we learn are valuable because the techniques can be applied to multiple fields of study.

U N E student Emily Schutt on a boat

Emilly Schutt, M.S. ’22

As a second-year Marine Science graduate student, I’ve been working on my master’s thesis, which looks at analyzing ecosystem services [a term that refers to the benefits that ecosystems generate for humans and human societies] of seaweed farms off the Gulf of Maine. I am using a variety of methods, including GoPro visual surveys, small invertebrate collections, and environmental DNA, to see if species richness and biodiversity indices are higher in a kelp farm when compared to a reference site. 

The habitat creation potential of an aquaculture site is dependent on multiple factors that can vary from farm to farm — even farms within the same geographical region. This study will be one of the first to quantify habitat creation in temperate kelp farms. 

My classmates and I deployed our first kelp farm this year. It was the single-line Wood Island Farm. It felt great to be able to do all the prep and nursery operations and deploy the farm with my peers. 

U N E student Cara Blaine

Cara Blaine, M.S. ’23

I am a graduate student in my first year at UNE. My master’s thesis focuses on the interactions of the marine snail with kelp farms in Maine. This species has been identified by members of Maine’s kelp aquaculture industry as a nuisance for farmers and processors alike due to the labor required to remove snail eggs from kelp blades.

My research aims to determine the timing of snail settlement and egg-laying on kelp farms through on-site visual assessments during the growing season. Additionally, I aim to determine if environmental DNA is an effective early detection tool for settlement of this species.

I am conducting experiments to test the snails’ preference between different species of farmed kelp and between healthy or stressed kelp. I am working closely with industry members, and my research at UNE will contribute to best management practices for kelp farmers.